LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – As the fight continues to outlaw child marriage in Michigan, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing for bills that would ban the practice and make the minimum age for marriage 18, with no exceptions.
These bills have been proposed in each of the last three legislative sessions, and none of them have come up for a vote.
Fraidy Reiss is the founder of Unchained At Last, a survivor-led non-profit dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the United States.
Right now, 16 and 17-year-olds in Michigan can get married with the consent of one parent.
Reiss said this goes against current state laws.
“We’re completely undermining our statutory rape laws. Sex with a child under the age of 16 is considered felony rape here in Michigan, it is punishable by up to 20 years in prison but marriage to a child under the age of 16 is completely legal,” Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained At Last said.
Survivors like Nina Van-Harn pleaded with legislators to support these bills in hopes of ending a vicious cycle of abuse in her own family.
Dressed in a wedding gown filled with the names of thousands of married children in the state, Van Harn said this has to end.
“The only legal protection my daughter Evelyn would have against this human rights abuse is a bill that passes and makes 18 no exceptions. So please I beg you to support this bill for my family and so that I do not have to add another name to this dress,” forced marriage survivor, Nina Van-Harn said.
Some Legislators said these bills need to be adjusted before they give it the green light.
“With proper amendments. I mean additional safeguards, additional guardrails I would be in favor of this,” District 78 Representative, Gina Johnsen said.
But Reiss said no changes are needed.
“The bill as written is very specific, it is very simple, it is very direct and it is very effective,” Reiss said.
The bills will be discussed in full next week.